What is selenium?

Selenium is a trace mineral that is necessary for a horse’s health. Selenium is incorporated into proteins to make selenoproteins, important antioxidant enzymes that assist in the prevention of cellular damage from free radicals. Horses need selenium equine supplements because exercise raises oxidative metabolism greatly. This results in increased antioxidant demand, which selenium provides. Performance horses, in particular, have a great need for supplementation.

What is the purpose of selenium?

Selenium has many key purposes, the main one being antioxidant defense, as mentioned above. As the body produces radical oxygen metabolites (or ROM, as it is sometimes called), selenium helps to neutralize them by providing enzymes like glutathione peroxidase, which neutralize ROM. This helps to protect the cells from damage.

Are selenium supplements for horses really necessary?

It is possible for a horse to gain enough selenium in his diet via forages and grains, but selenium levels vary greatly among regions of the country. Some areas that are located in the northern Great Plains have an extremely high content of selenium in their soil, but areas where there is a lot of corn or soy being grown is generally low in selenium and a horse supplement may be necessary for equines that reside there. As a rule, pastures and crops that are located in the eastern half of the United States are considered to be very low in natural selenium, as are areas in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. If you live in these areas, or are unsure about selenium levels in your area, supplementation of this amazing mineral may be necessary.

Selenium is not only an important antioxidant, it offers a boost to a variety of other bodily processes necessary for a horse’s normal function; these include disease resistance, reproduction, and growth. Foals that are given a supplement or horse treat containing selenium grow and thrive much better than foals which are selenium deficient. This may be because the thyroid hormone requires a selenium-dependent enzyme to activate it. Horses of both sexes also require selenium for a healthy reproductive system. As you can see, selenium is a critical mineral for horses at every stage of the life cycle.

How much selenium does my horse require?

The recommended amount of selenium is 0.1 ppm in the total diet for every age and class of equines. Although it is generally agreed upon that 0.1 ppm Se is a sufficient amount for horses that are mature or idle, there is a general consensus that horses with greater energy needs like growing horses, mares, or performance horses may very well need more selenium in their horse feed. They may require about 3 mg. per day. This roughly translates to about 0.3 ppm Se in the horse’s total diet (about three times the amount necessary for nonperformance horses). This is the amount that is added by many feed manufacturers at your local feed store.

How important is selenium for my broodmare?

Selenium is invaluable tool of horse health for the broodmare. In order to achieve reproductive success the mare must deliver a healthy foal, and then quickly expel the entire placenta afterward. She must then avoid metritis and other periparturient infection, before cycling and re-breeding in a timely manner. After parturition the mare’s cell-mediated immune system requires an optimum response in order to achieve a clean separation of the placenta at the tissue level. In addition, this important branch of the immune system is critical if invading pathogens are to be stopped.

During the last trimester of her pregnancy, the mare transfers an enormous amount of trace minerals to her fetus. If she doesn’t receive optimum nutrition during this time, she runs the risk of depleting the reserves she requires. The production of colostrum and the onset of lactation tax her body further. Selenium allows the mare to build tissue reserves to meet her physical requirements for gestation and lactation without compromising her own health in the process. Equine feed supplemented with selenium can be a great assistance during this time.

How important is selenium for a foal?

Selenium is crucial for foals, as it is required for both innate and acquired immune function. In addition to the nutrients that foals receive from their mother’s milk, they also receive high levels of immunoglobulins Vitamin E and selenium that help the foal fight infection. Foals that are born to mares who receive 3 mg. of selenium instead of 1 mg. have been shown to have a higher serum IgG content at 12 hours of age. Foals that nurse from a mother who receives selenium horse supplements have also been shown to be better prepared for weaning stress.

As you can see, selenium is a valuable mineral that no horse should be without.

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